In my Maps and Literature class, we were assigned a small digital project to explore the geospatial aspects of a piece that we had read in class. For the Digital Project assignment, I chose to work with “Prose Poem” by Campbell McGrath. This particular work interested me because it covers so much space in such a short amount of paper. I’ve done a lot of visual projects this term in Lit 306, so I decided to choose an outlet that I hadn’t worked with yet. This led me to create a curated-like collection on Pinterest.
I use Pinterest all the time, but I’ve never thought to use it as the focal point of a project. From the beginning, I knew that I didn’t want to just post pictures that could work with the poem in one way or another; I wanted to tell a story. I came up with a concept that would take the viewer from a map view of the geographical layout, then work as if the viewer was zooming into street view (like on Google Earth). From here, they would be viewing the landscape that McGrath describes as if they were standing right by it. Finally, the project would “zoom out” to an aerial shot of land, leaving the reader to contemplate the final line of the poem.
I decided to break down the poem line by line, using at least one picture per sentence. I read multiple interviews to try to find the original location that McGrath used, but I came up with no luck. I did have the map included with the poem, so from there I used my imagination and the imagery in the text.
Choosing the pictures was challenging because I was mainly working from Google Images search results. Had the images been my own, I could have changed the filter, increasing the emotion of each image. I refused to pick images just because they visually matched what McGrath was describing; instead, I chose images that brought about the same emotion in myself as the corresponding line from the poem did. For ex, when the line speaks of a wheat field to the right, I chose an image of a wheat field that 1. appeared as if the viewer was standing to the right of it, and 2. matched the “feeling” that the line provoked . This did result in some pictures being watermarked, as well as a range of lighting and filter differences. But I believe the end result, though in a very raw form, does create a digital journey for the reader.
I also see the potential of a more detailed and in-depth project like this one. If done properly, it could blur the lines between what came first: the poem or the images.